May 23, 2001

Madigan: Third airport 'fantasy'

Raises concerns budget won't have cash for land

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

By Kristen McQueary
Politics writer

SPRINGFIELD House Speaker Michael Madigan described third-airport plans Tuesday as a "fantasy" cooked up by Gov. George Ryan, casting doubt on the possibility the state budget will include money for more land acquisition near Peotone.

Madigan's comments came after a meeting with Ryan and House Minority Leader Lee Daniels, where the two sides tried to find common ground on the state budget.

Money for land acquisition near Peotone doesn't appear to be on the table for Madigan, who compared Ryan's airport plan to Disneyland.

"You've been to Disneyland, haven't you?" the Chicago Democrat said.

Madigan previously has said there were several conditions that had to be met in order for him to support an airport near Peotone: local participation from a county or municipality, protection of the passenger-use tax that funds O'Hare and Midway airports and the start of an investigation into monopolistic practices by American and United airlines at O'Hare.

"I do not object to construction of a third airport (near Peotone)," he wrote in a 1998 letter to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) of Chicago.

But Madigan said Tuesday not only does he consider a Peotone airport "fantasy," he would not support appropriating the $15 million for land acquisition Ryan requested earlier this year, nor would he support reappropriating the $30 million the General Assembly set aside the last two years.

The $30 million was appropriated but never spent. Ryan called for an additional $15 million this year during his budget address and authorized the Illinois Department of Transportation to begin negotiating with land owners.

Property owners have been visiting the state's land acquisition headquarters in Matteson, which opened last month, to discuss potential sales.

Now it appears those negotiations may be for naught if there's no money in the budget to pay for the property.

"If land acquisition is not in the budget, they're not going to get stink from me," said state Rep. David Miller (D-Calumet City), who supports a third airport. "If we have to find money for Boeing who didn't even look in the south suburbs for their headquarters, we should be able to find money for a third airport."

Meanwhile, a news conference scheduled to take place this morning, called by state Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) who chairs the House Aviation Committee, was cancelled Tuesday afternoon. Hamos was expected to unveil a report of the committee's findings on airport capacity in the Chicago region.

Hamos has clashed with Kirk Brown, Ryan's secretary of transportation, and has not favored the proposal for a third airport. On her office door hangs a full-page advertisement that ran last week in a metro Chicago newspaper, paid for by Chicago business leaders who want new runways at O'Hare, not a third airport.

The vice chairman of the aviation committee, state Rep. George Scully (D-Flossmoor) who supports a third airport, would not elaborate on Hamos' report but said they have tried to find common ground on the air capacity issue.

Scully said it was good news that the press conference got cancelled.

"The problems with air capacity have changed dramatically in the last four months. Now it's clear we have a severe problem in the region that is stifling any growth," Scully said.

Madigan, who wanted to be at Hamos' press conference, had a scheduling conflict which is why it is being postponed to next week, sources said.

Meanwhile, Ryan is still waiting for a plan from the city of Chicago about runway expansion at O'Hare, according to his spokesman.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said Tuesday he would unveil a plan to handle flight delays at O'Hare International Airport by July 1, a deadline recommended this weekend by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

"The urgency is there," Daley told reporters.

Culloton, the governor's spokesman, said the July 1 deadline for an airport deal "isn't something we're concerned about. If Congress usurps local control, there's not a lot we can do about it."

Kristen McQueary may be reached at or (708) 633-5972.

[Chicago ATC News]